The key lay on the sidewalk, cold silver glinting in the winter sun. Something–hope, or fate?–prompted me to pick it up. Turning it over in my hand, I wondered only half-mockingly if it was supposed to be the key to my future, my past, or maybe the key to your heart.
Most would say it was pure superstition to imbue an inanimate object with that much significance. I wish I could agree with them.
That little bit of metal weighed heavily in my pocket for weeks. I could feel it, heavier than it should have been, as I walked to work and home again, as I did the groceries and popped out to lunch with friends. And, each Tuesday as you and I walked arm-in-arm down the snowy streets to that little bar on the corner, I could feel it pulling one side of my coat down just a bit more than the other.
Did you notice? You never mentioned it if you did, and you were always so perceptive when it came to symmetry – or the lack thereof.
It began to feel like the proverbial albatross, but still I carried it. It was there in my pocket that night, our last Tuesday as it turned out. The streets were unusually slippery and thick with snow as we picked our way past shopfronts and other pedestrians, you ahead of me for once instead of by my side. I kept looking up into the orange glow of the streetlights, watching the thick snowflakes as they fluttered in and out of the halos. I was trying to hold back the tears.
Yes, I knew it was over even before you said anything. People feel these things.
We reached the bar and you went straight down the narrow stone steps and disappeared inside, leaving me to make my own way down carefully, alone. You were clearly on a mission. When I finally stepped into the dim, faded red ambience of the place, you were already at a table. I noted it wasn’t our usual corner; that had already been taken.
“Something has changed.” You launched into it without preamble the moment I sat down. I thought briefly that you were talking about the seating arrangements rather than us.
“When? When did it change?” I remember asking. I wanted a day and a time.
You looked at me then, curious, like you suspected I knew something. Sighing, resigning yourself to the truth, you gave me the day, and her name.
It was you, not the key, you and the weakness of the human spirit, that made all this happen.
And yet. And yet, the date you gave me was of course the same day that I found the key.
I don’t know why we bothered going through the motions that night, ordering our drinks and our dinners. We sat there for hours, hands wrapped around our individual glasses, staring in silence, oblivious to the other lives, the other dramas, unfolding in front of us.
I don’t go back there now. I wonder sometimes if you take her there, if you sit at our table.
I still carry the key, though. I’ve started looking around for a possible lock it might belong to, a possible life I might belong to. I can’t believe that finding the key was accident, and I won’t believe that it was only a catalyst for our end. It isn’t the key to your heart, but maybe it is the key to my future.